What’s old is new again. Old-timey Jewish delis are as much a part of the restaurant industry fabric as burger chains. Just because they are well-established does not mean these concepts don’t continue to evolve. In fact, next-generation versions of the Jewish deli meet modern appetites with convenient, fast-casual service and stepped up classics.
Harry & Ida’s Luncheonette — set in the heart of New York City’s financial district, this vintage-inspired spot serves classic favorites with a twist, like the house-made pastrami with buttermilk-fermented cucumber kraut, cracked rye berry, anchovy mustard and fresh dill. Guests can choose between proteins like smoked apricot chicken and even plant-based options like vegetarian chopped “liver,” and coconut “babaganoush” with tofu.
Steingold’s — This Chicago-based, new-wave iteration of the modern deli uses a fast-casual model where guests order at a counter then wait for staff to deliver their food to the table. The deli’s main draws include homemade plain and everything bagels, along with Reuben and other sandwiches grilled on a flattop out front on the main line and labeled with quirky names like Uncle Rube, Fat Alvin and Cousin Suzy.
Frankel’s — Second-generation New York natives and brothers Zach and Alex Frankel partnered with chef Ashley Berman to recreate Frankel family recipes for this Brooklyn-based deli. The focus includes house-smoked fish, braised meat, fresh salads, bagel sandwiches and more, including a kitschy retail section.
Equipment and Supplies for Jewish Delis:
- Refrigerated prep tables
- Rapid cook ovens
- Soup wells and kettles
- Ovens and combi ovens for braising
- Traditional smokers for homemade pastrami and corned beef
- Meat slicers
- Pots and containers for pickles and condiments
Q&A with McAlister’s Executive Chef Will Eudy
McAlister’s Deli is capitalizing on current Jewish deli trends, focusing on its oversized Reuben sandwich and The New Yorker (corned beef and pastrami) as well as adding new items. The 413-store chain just enhanced its appearance, adding communal tables to create a neighborhood atmosphere and rolling to-go cabinets with sliding doors into the kitchen for staff to process online orders faster. Executive Chef Will Eudy shares more about how this chain continues to evolve.
FE&S: What are your latest menu items?
WE: We revise our menu at least once a year, including adding some LTOs [limited time offers]. This year, we will roll out a Jalapeño Turkey Crunch Sandwich with jalapeño potato chips as well as the Verde Chicken Sandwich on a jalapeño roll to offer something crunchy, savory, sweet and smoky or tangy at the same time. The turkey sandwich is one of the highest-selling sandwiches we have ever tested.
FE&S: How has your kitchen design changed?
WE: We have redesigned our kitchen so we have double lines. We used to have specific stations for sandwich assembly, potatoes and salads, but have reengineered our line to have duplicate lines running parallel to each other to increase throughput. This has helped us increase efficiencies at peak periods, and during nonpeak times we can close down one of the lines.
The change was a bigger expenditure on equipment but has led to much more savings on labor. The workhorse of the kitchen is our rapid-speed ovens stacked on top of each other, along with toasters, soup wells and undercounter refrigeration with drop-ins for the sandwich ingredients. We also use large, double-decker ovens for cookies and potatoes, but most of our main equipment is on the line.
FE&S: How have you capitalized on your big sellers, the Reuben and The New Yorker?
WE: We are seeing a recent bump in sales of those sandwiches. The whole Chicago or New York deli idea seems to be intriguing to our guests because the flavor profiles are so bold. It seems many of our guests are seeing a lot about the trend in print and social media, so they are coming in to enjoy those sandwiches with us.